Paleo has a voice that is at once off-putting and hypnotizing—imagine if Tom Waits were a tenor and didn’t smoke. He’ll lull an Urban Lounge crowd on July 31 with his vast repertoire of songs. The show starts at 9 p.m. with The Awful Truth opening.
City Weekly: It has been about five years since your year-long song-a-day writing spree. Looking back, what was that process like and did it have any lasting effects on how you craft songs?
David Strackany: Sure, it changed everything. Some say if you spend 10,000 hours doing something, you pretty much master it; I've gone around that lap a few times now. But I became a bit boring: That year skinned me of all other interests, and I've only gone deeper into that inverse obelisk since. But it brings me peace, to write a song. And it's nice to have a moment of peace.
CW: So you're saying you basically only write songs these days, nothing more? How many do you write a year?
DS: I have a million things I would like to do—books I'll never write, paintings I'll never paint—but I pretty much just play shows and write music. I tinker on songs for months if not years now. I work on dozens at the same time, just opening up one and making a little progress and then moving on to another, and so on and so forth. Some years I'll finish just a few. On a good year I complete maybe 20, not including the "Sunday Prayers” [YouTube recordings uploaded every Sunday, no matter where Strackany is]. But there are hundreds in progress.
CW: You did this while you were living out of your car, basically homeless, right? Do you have an abode these days?
DS: Well, I wasn't homeless; I was a young musician living in a state of permanent tour, and that's very different than being destitute in America. But I haven't lived anywhere really in earnest since I lived in Iowa City as a college student in the early 2000s. I moved back there last winter for four months—the longest I've stayed anywhere—and it was pretty wonderful but not my scene or my speed. So I'm back on the road for now, and considering a move to Chicago—the city closest to where I grew up in Elgin, Ill.
CW: One more question about back-in-the-day: When you sold all of your CDs to get a tattoo in Chicago, what was the tattoo?
DS: I was just hanging out with a few old grandmas in Tucson talking about that, and they asked me if I regretted getting the tattoo. I told them I'd like my CDs back, sure, but I don't regret the tattoo. It's a gun—a revolver—with forget-me-not flowers growing out of the barrel.
CW: What were a few of the CDs? What music are you digging on these days?
DS: I had a great collection of classic rock and jazz, a lot of Coltrane. These days I don't know...we were just listening to In Utero in the car in honor of the Northwest.
CW: These days, it seems, when people hear the word “paleo” they either think of dinosaurs or the trendy diet of eating strictly meat and greens. Do people bring these things up to you ever?
DS: Brilllliant. Whatever works, man. Though, I think it'd be a lot more "paleo" if they grew it themselves and killed it with their own bloody bare hands.
CW: Your latest effort, Fruit of the Spirit has this kind of Pavement-meets-Caribbean-street-music vibe to it. Talk about the album concept.
DS: For starters, I wanted to work without computers, quickly and with a lot of other musicians. I am bored with the perfection of music these days, with the tentative and pussy-whipped way people record. Not just the easy targets, the pop stars, but most of "indie" music. It's all so insecure. I'd rather hear them fart into a microphone, honestly. We are not angels, we are miserably flawed. Eat all the greens and meat you want to, but you are in a state of decay. That is the truth of who you are, and yet we ask for, and deserve, love. And that's exactly what makes the giving and getting of it so meaningful.
CW: Is this a more melodious album than previous ones?
DS: I hate that word, melodious. Why would you use a word that contained the word "odious"?
CW: I see your point. I like it because "odious" means extremely unpleasant, but when used in melodious, it changes its meaning to pleasant. That's swell. I guess I've been using it a bit much recently, like the word just won't leave my writing. Do you get stuck on words like that?
CW: Did landing on Partisan Records feel like a huge accomplishment? What's it like working with the label?
DS: We don't talk much, but mostly because I don't talk much with anybody. But I love them. They're crazy. Anybody who runs a label right now is nuts. They live in a skyscraper with a giant golden eagle at the top of it, and flying squirrels live in the eagle, and the squirrels are the ones we're all really working for.
CW: Sounds like a cartoon.
DS: Doesn't everything?